In a world that grows more digital by the second, record stores remain vital community hubs for people interested in connecting in-person with fellow music-lovers. In college towns, cities large and small and creative downtowns across North Carolina, record stores offer space to talk music with fellow aficionados, engage physically with the media, and spend time “treasure hunting” for that forgotten gem in the used bin. We’ve invited record stores across the state to share their stories throughout the Come Hear North Carolina campaign. For the next installment in the series, we welcome William Harris, the owner of Nit Nats Music in Henderson, North Carolina.
What is the name of your store and where are you based?
Nits Nats Music. 1680 Parham St., Henderson, N.C.
How long have you been in operation?
Tell us a bit about your store. What is its mission and why is the community you serve a good place for your business?
Chery Hawkins, the original owner, opened the store in Oxford in 1969. By 1970, Nits Nats had a Henderson location as well. The Henderson store was more successful and the business stayed in Henderson while Cheryl and her husband, Phillip, owned it. I had been a customer since 1977 and when they decided to retire in 2015 they suggested I buy the store. I did and after a few months we moved the store to Louisburg. We stayed there for nine months and then returned to Henderson where we've been since. We try to provide a little of everything to our customers in terms of music. You'll find everything from the Sensational Nightingales to Frank Zappa. We sell new and used CDs, vinyl, dvds, books and more. Henderson and the four county area of Vance, Franklin, Warren and Granville don't have any other record stores in the area so we fill a need. Additionally, I feel Nits Nats Music gives the City of Henderson a bit of character. Small towns need small local businesses to remain vital. Nits Nats Music is, I hope, part of that vitality.
Tell us about your customers. Who is buying records? How has that changed over time? What do you think is driving the vinyl resurgence?
It used to be that the hard core crate diggers were buying vinyl. The original owners had gotten away from buying vinyl. Once I took over, I had fond memories of John Swain and the legendary Record Hole in Raleigh. I loved digging for records there and I decided to bring used vinyl back to Nits Nats. Slowly, over the last several years, more and more people came looking for vinyl. While I still have the hard core crate diggers that must know every copy of every record I have, I now see a lot of teenagers who are exploring vinyl for the first time. Sometimes they come in with mom and dad and sometimes on their own or with friends. I still have an older clientele that are looking for classic R&B, gospel and southern soul. They, usually but not always, opt for CDs while the younger customers who look for Led Zeppelin or The Beatles tend to be looking for vinyl. I think what's driving the return to vinyl is that the younger generation is looking for an authentic musical experience that cannot be obtained with a download or listening to a playlist on your phone. I won't say vinyl is better than CD but it's just different. Either format is certainly far superior than what you are going to hear off of your phone from a streaming service.
How people consume, and access music has changed dramatically in the last decade. What do record stores offer in this ever-growing digital/streaming music landscape?
Not only does purchasing physical copies support small business and the artists and producers, a record store presents the authentic shopping experience. Most, if not all, are staffed by people who love music. You aren't going to become rich working at or owning a record store so most do it because they love it. Reading a review on Amazon isn't the same from getting a human response from the person behind the counter. Record stores are a place to meet those with similar interests. It's more than just buying the latest Twenty One Pilots album. It's also about interaction and atmosphere.
Thank you so much for participating in our giveaway, please tell us which record you are sharing and why you picked it.
Beggars' Caravan - Take Me With You was released several years ago. Recorded by Ian Schreier at Osceola in Raleigh and mastered by Brent Lambert at the Kitchen in Carrboro, Beggar's Caravan mix solid songwriting with instrumentation that is just as solid. It's a rather straight forward rock album with a touch of pop that deserved more attention upon its release.
Where can people find you online?
Nits Nats-Music is our Facebook handle. I am afraid we aren't much in the way tweeting or using Instagram.
Mandolin Orange - Tides of a Teardrop
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
Nantucket - Nantucket